Herbal infusions are the foundation of the protocols I share with my clients. They are a cornerstone of any good herbal practice because they are such an incredible source of highly available minerals, vitamins, and nourishing compounds. Plus, they are so simple to make and can taste really nice with the right herbs. If you haven't added a daily herbal infusion into your routine, now is the time! Here are some tips and herbs to get you started.
Tips To Get Started
1) Pick an herb that is gentle and good for everyday use.
You want to choose herbs that gently nourish the body, not ones that have strong physiological effects. Some herbs are very potent and not recommended for daily use as they could be irritating or lead to imbalance within your system. You also don't want to use highly aromatic or bitter herbs because they will overpower the infusion. I share more about my personal favorites later in the post.
2) Choose high quality plant material. Plants are alive, and therefore have a vitality. If your herbs are too old or not stored properly their nutritional and medicinal value will greatly diminish and taking them will be essentially a waste of time. Fresh, organically grown plant material is ideal, but not always readily available. If you are utilizing dried plant material make sure it is properly dried and properly stored. Dried herbs should be away from direct sunlight and kept in a cool (room temperature) environment to preserve their quality. To test the vitality of your plant material you can utilize your senses, smell, taste, and sight . Some herbs have a stronger aroma and taste than others, but in general you should at least be able to sense something from your herbs. Some good questions to ask yourself are: Does it have an aroma? How strong is the aroma? Does it smell like it did before? How long has it been sitting? How was it stored? Taste is also a good indicator of the quality of the herb. Have you tasted it before? Does it taste the way it did then? Does it have any flavor at all? Are its colors vibrant? Use your instincts and intuition.
3) To infuse or to decoct? This is a simple mistake I see made all too often when working with herbs. Some parts of herbs have cell walls that are very thick and will not break down very effectively from a simple infusion method. This includes roots, bark, and dried mushrooms. If you want to add a root like dandelion or burdock to your daily herbal brew or a mushroom like reishi and you would like for it to be potent and filled with a full spectrum of medicinal properties it is best to decoct it. Decocting means placing about 1 Tbsp herb per 8 ounces of water and allowing it to low simmer (not boil, boiling will kill some of the medicinal value) it for 15-30 minutes.
4) Make the brewing of it part of your routine so that you actually remember to make it each day. Do whatever works for you, but I recommend brewing it before bed so that it is ready to drink in the morning. It can also be nice to place the herbs in special jars next to your kettle to bring a little extra enjoyment into the process of brewing your infusion. 5) Let it steep for a loooooong time. This is the key to infusions, ideally they will steep for four hours or more (another great reason to brew it before bedtime)
6) When you strain the infusion give the herbs a good squeeze to get out the tea that is absorbed by the leaves/flowers. It is easy to forget that there is a lot of water absorbed by the plant material during the infusion process, don't miss out on that goodness!
7) Drink 1 quart a day (yes 1 full quart, at least!) When I was pregnant with my kids I would
drink a half gallon a day of nettle, oat straw, and red raspberry...not joking. I am convinced that is why both of my natural births were relatively easy (as easy as giving birth can be) and both of my babies were born healthy and alert.
Choosing Your Herbs
As I mentioned before, you want to choose an herb that is gently nourishing and fairly fresh. A nourishing herb generally means that it has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals and does not have strong, direct physiological effects on the body. Nourishing herbs are considered generally safe for all ages as they nourish, tone, and support the body's tissues in a gentle fashion. Here are some good herbs to start...
Nettle (Urtica diocia)
This herb is a rich source of minerals, as well as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, potassium sodium, and fatty acids. I recommend it to almost every expecting momma because it is such a great blood builder with readily available nutrients for mother and baby. It is also incredibly beneficial for seasonal allergies as it has compounds in it that regulate the release of pro-inflammatory mediators that lead to allergy symptoms.
Oat straw or Oat Tops (Avena sativa)
I love this herbal ally so much. Oat straw or Oat Tops is loaded with minerals as well as trace nutrients like silica, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, iron, calcium, alkaloids, protein, vitamin B complex, and vitamins A and C. This is not oat meal, it is the dried stalks or the flowering tops of the oat plant. Oat Tops in the fresh stage are also called Milky Oats, and usually prepared in the fresh stage as a tincture for nervous system support.
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)
Did you know that the leaves of the red raspberry plant are incredibly nourishing? I love red raspberry leaf infusion, the flavor is so delightful and with nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and manganese it is an overall incredible herbal ally. A traditional use of this incredible ally is for pregnancy but it can be a great herb for anyone with a uterus because of its affinity for that reproductive organ. I utilized this herb during both of my pregnancies and personally found great results from the amount of support it provided to my body. It combines well with nettle and is another blood builder as it contains iron. According to wise woman Rosemary Gladstar it is also a great herb for supporting healthy connective tissue and supportive to healthy energy metabolism.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Also commonly known as Melissa, this herb has been used for centuries to support cognitive and emotional well being as well as for a wide range of other applications. From personal experience this herb is an incredible pick me up that lightens the spirit and soothes the nerves. It smells and tastes delightful, adored by children and elders alike!
A little bonus: If you want to enhance the flavor and boost medicinal properties you can add some peppermint for the last 30-45 minutes. Adding it too soon will overpower the flavor of the infusion.
How to Make an Herbal Infusion
Making an herbal infusion is so, so simple!
1) Place 1-3 tablespoons of single herb or blend of chosen herbs in a tea strainer or directly in a quart mason jar
2) Pour freshly boiled water until the jar is filled
3) Allow to steep for 4 hours or more.
& viola! You have an incredibly nourishing brew that your body, mind, and spirit will love!